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Cappies: 'Inherit the Wind' at Hazelwood East High Evolves into Emotional Performance

Student reviewer says Hazelwood East actors created a believable and energetic performance of 'Inherit the Wind,' which inspires audience members to delve for deeper meaning.

By Molly Grotha of Marquette High School

What happens when one man sets out to reach intellectual freedom despite the laws and conflicting views of his community? The answer to this is held in Hazelwood East High School’s energetic and intriguing production of Inherit the Wind, written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee.

Inherit the Wind, which debuted in 1955, was written to reflect the controversial topic of McCarthyism. The playwrights, however, chose a separate topic to serve as the surface of their ideas: The Scopes “Monkey” trial of evolution, which proved to contain more similarities than audiences expected.

In a cozy, religious town called Hillsboro, a young teacher earnestly teaches his students about the then-controversial topic of evolution. This brings the town immense excitement and publicity, along with a famous, religious prosecuting attorney.

The defense attorney, Henry Drummon, is superbly executed by Marquise Middleton. Middleton stands out immediately by using the clearest enunciation in the show and excellent comedic timing. Middleton emotionally commits to his role as the intensity of the trail rises by expressing his emotions through the inflection in his voice.

On the opposing side, the prosecuting attorney Matthew Brady is played by Calvin Payne. Payne effortlessly displays his character with a likeable charm and clear speaking voice. His subtle hand gestures and movements immensely add to the believability of his character.

The supporting roles in this show fall slightly short of the leads due to a lack of characterization. Jasmine Newman and Nathan Battle play Rachel Brown and Bert Cates with clear articulation and projection, despite the lack of microphones. Unfortunately, both lack emotion in their characters which makes the romance between the two confusing. Scenes of heightened emotion make up for this dilemma as both actors grasp and play off of the emotions of the audience.

Ensemble members contribute greatly to the mood of the show as a whole. The chatter from the jury during shocking moments in the trial and their responses though the duration of the church scene add to the overall realism of the show.

Sound, headed by Kristopher Robertson aided in establishing the time of the show by playing period music before, after, and during the show. The set, while extremely simple, serves its purpose and proved to be a wise decision in design because of the numerous locations in which scenes occur.

Inevitably, many actors are hard to understand due to lack of diction and microphones; especially when their backs are turned away from the audience. Also, at many times actors jump on each other’s lines and break character when realizing the mistake. This could easily be played off by the general tense atmosphere, but unfortunately was not.

Despite the few technical flaws, Hazelwood East students created a believable and energetic performance of Inherit the Wind, which inspires audience members to delve for deeper meaning. Where is the line drawn between science and religion? It reminds people of a greater message--“All motion is relative. Perhaps it is you that moved away by standing still.”

This review was submitted by The Cappies, a program that trains high school theater and journalism students as critics. The students then attend shows at other schools, write reviews and publish those reviews in local news outlets. At the end of the year, student critics vote for awards that are presented at a formal Cappies Gala.

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